E011 - How Does The Old Testament Law Apply Today? - Transcript

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Welcome to the Gospel of Everything podcast, where we consider everything in the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I'm your host, Jon Davis.

On this show we do not obsess over the end of the world, but rather we are looking to see the Glory of God show up in every area of our lives.

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Greetings, friends. Welcome to the Gospel of Everything podcast. This is Jon Davis, your host, and here on this podcast, we talk about anything and everything in the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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So I want to talk to you today about the Old Testament law. Now, why would I want to talk about that? Well, I have found that Christians, at least evangelical American Christians have a tendency to have a knee jerk reaction to any attempt to bring an Old Testament principle or Old Testament law to bear on any issue of today.

Or there's actually a couple of different knee jerk reactions. On one side, there's the knee jerk reaction of mocking the law of God from the Old Testament, like listing some kind of crazy sounding stuff out of context. And on the other side, there's the reaction of just stating the phrase, but we are not under the law. So you're having a discussion about some area of life and trying to apply the Bible to it, and you use a passage from the Old Testament and someone says, but we're not under the law, or maybe they say, Well, do you stone your disobedient children?

They pull something out of context and try and debunk everything you're saying by writing off the whole thing. I want to talk to you today about the value and relevance of the Old Testament, including the law of Moses today, why it is relevant today and how a little bit about how that works. So when people react and say we're not under the law, of course, I happen to agree with that that we're not under the law. But I do not believe that this fact has rendered the Old Testament law irrelevant.

There are still relevant purposes for the law today in the New Covenant, one such purpose that people will often admit to is the law's role in moving us to Christ for forgiveness and mercy to be born again. The Apostle Paul talks in Romans about how the law basically shows us how sinful we are, and in the end it drives us to Christ for Salvation. I agree that this is a major purpose of the Old Testament law here in the New Covenant age

Even in the Old Testament, in the book of Deuteronomy, in the second part of chapter 31, we see how God knew in advance that the people of Israel were going to rebel against Him and his law. So God, in his sovereignty, knew that he wasn't giving the law because people were going to be able to obey that law in their condition. God gave the law knowing that it was going to expose the rebellious, sinful nature of man's flesh. But that is not its only purpose. Jesus said in Matthew Five that he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill the law.

We can read in two Timothy 16 and 17 in the famous passage about the Word of God that the Word of God is a means of correction and training and learning righteousness. As we talked about in a previous episode, all Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient equipped for every good work. And we talked in that previous episode about how most likely Paul is referring primarily to the Old Testament here when he instructs Timothy about the Scriptures, Jesus himself said that to love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself are the sum of the law.

We can read. In Matthew 22, 35 through 40, in one of them, a lawyer asked him Jesus a question to test him.

Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest? He said to him, you shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment, and the second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself, and these two Commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

He does not say that these things replace the law or that we now have them instead of the law.

Rather, he talks about them like they are a summary of the law. So the Old Testament law is a description of practical love. God Himself is love. So the Old Testament law is a description of who God is and what he is like. So we can see that even to this day the Old Testament law is still useful for understanding what love is, what it looks like lived out in society and human relationships. It is not useful for achieving righteousness before God, and that's because of our sinful natures.

The constant human inability throughout history to successfully achieve or earn righteousness before God has shown that the law does not make us righteous.

So we are learning here that first of all, the law is still useful in driving us to Christ. It shows us how sinful we are and how desperately we need forgiveness and mercy so that we then go to the cross and put our faith in Christ and are made righteous before God.

But the law is also a useful description of what practical love looks like in day to day life.

For example, we only have one time in history where God created a nation from scratch by direct revelation. That would be Old Testament Israel.

It would seem that it would be useful to look at this and see how love looks in the realm of civil, government and nation building.

Just look at the Ten Commandments, the core of the Old Testament law. They start by carefully describing what it means to love God and then go on into carefully describing what it means to love your neighbor. Some examples, no false gods, no idols, honor your parents, do not steal, do not commit adultery, do not murder. Do not lie about someone in court, et cetera.

When we say today that we are not under the law, do we mean that these expressions of what God's love looks like are no longer relevant or valuable for instruction? I am telling you here that while you cannot be saved by the law, you can learn about God's ethic of love and how it works in day to day life by studying the Old Testament law, and of course, doing so in the context of the New Testament. I know that it is not possible for any of us to be made right with God by obedience to the law because it's too late for that.

We've already disobeyed. We are already under judgment, but that law can drive us to Christ to receive mercy, and it can also instruct us in right and wrong, which in God's world means love.

When the Bible talks about love, it is not just an ooey gooey feeling towards your fellow man. It is immensely practical.

I wish I could promise you that it's easy to read the Old Testament and understand exactly how to apply it today. Sometimes it is easy. I think we will find almost universal agreement, for example, around the idea that a practical way of loving your neighbor is to not murder them.

But of course, there are other areas of the law that are harder to understand, and we know from the Book of Hebrews that the Levitical priestly system, the sacrificial system, the temple religious system. These are completely fulfilled in Christ. We don't have to replicate those anymore. In the world, we are now the Temple. Jesus is our high priest, and His blood is the permanent fulfilling sacrifice. There is much more to be said about this, but when I set out to make this particular episode, I decided not to get too deep into the nitty gritty details about how to apply the Old Testament law today.

Perhaps we will touch on that bit by bit in the future. I just wanted to start by challenging you and inviting you to observe that it is relevant today. God's law is relevant today.

It's just a matter of doing the work to understand how and when and why and how it all works.

And to be redundantly clear, I do not teach at all that we can somehow be saved by doing the good works of the law. We cannot be righteous before God by observing the law.

I've said that so many times. Hopefully there is no doubt in your mind and no distraction in your mind about that issue.

But we can be chased to Christ by the law and we can learn practically what God's ethical standards are and what love is.

In fact, we sometimes need the Old Testament to help us sort through some of the popular ideas of love today.

All sorts of evil things in the world are being inserted into our culture in the name of love, so called love.

But we have a standard in the Old Testament and the New, of course, to help us know how love really works. We can also see the core ideas behind God's design for the world. The Book of Genesis contains many of the core foundations of Christian thinking. One observation I have made about the New Testament is that it kind of assumes the Old Testament. It doesn't repeat everything it builds on a foundation. Basically, the New Testament isn't ever going to make much sense except to read it in the context of the Old Testament.

Do a close study of the instructions Paul gives for practical living in his various letters, and you will see and hear the voice of Old Testament wisdom and those things. He is not primarily giving new commands, but rather he is teaching the new Gentile believers the principles of God's ethical standards in the context of the New Covenant. But where did he get those standards of love? He got them from the Old Testament. Of course. I hope this brief conversation has helped you to rethink how you view the Old Testament.

There is much to learn from the Old Testament and much to learn specifically from the Old Testament law. We can learn who God is and what he is like. We can learn who man is. We can learn where evil comes from. We can learn from where suffering comes from. We can learn God's vision and plan for the world. We can learn what is the meaning of our life work. We can learn about beauty, excellence and quality. We can learn wisdom about how to run a court case or set up a government or investigate a crime.

We can learn wisdom about business. We can find information that will help us resolve disputes between people and on and on. I hope your mind is a little bit more open and a little bit less afraid of the Old Testament law. And I hope you can see that whenever someone just dismisses something from the Old Testament law with the phrase, but we are not under the law. They are misusing that idea. It is correct and important to point out repeatedly, as I have done, that we are not under the law in the sense that we cannot be saved by the law.

And there's not some sort of an obligation to follow an elaborate list of rules in order to enter the Kingdom of heaven.

The teachings of the Old Testament are good and beautiful and just and right. The Old or perhaps we should say original Covenant has been fulfilled in Christ, and a new Covenant has come that puts that law in our hearts. So it didn't go away. The standards that God set up didn't go away.

I had an intense discussion with somebody once. Who... he kept bringing up some obscure law from the Old Testament and trying to show how absurd... How absurd it was.

And I kept asking him, Was it just and beautiful and good at the time that God gave that law? He wouldn't answer the question because as soon as he answered that question, he would be basically acknowledging either that he believes in or doesn't believe in the Bible as authoritative.

So I want to ask yourself this question when you see something that sounds crazy to you in the Old Testament, you're reading along and you're reading something. Oh, that's crazy. We're not backwards like that today, as they were back then.

Well, here's my question for you. Which set of beliefs is revealed by God, those in the Old Testament law or those in popular humanistic culture. I would urge you that if you encounter something in the Old Testament or the New Testament that distresses you, or maybe it seems crazy or whatever. It would be so much easier to just blow that off and say, We're not under the law.

Oh, good, you solved the problem. We're not under that law. So you don't have to deal with what it says.

But let's face it, if God said something in the Old Testament at the time, he said it in that culture time and place, and in some cases for all time, it was the truth, and it was a description of love.

Jesus said the Old Testament law is summed up by love.

So that crazy passage about parents stoning their disobedient children. I'm not going to go into that now. And I'm definitely not advocating that anybody stoned their disobedient children.

But the point is, there was a context to that. You can hear that and kind of be embarrassed and ashamed and say, oh, yeah, we don't believe that crazy stuff like they had back then. Or you could go in there to the Old Testament and carefully study it, study the context. What did it mean then? What did it mean to the original reader is how we used to say it in my Bible school that I attended. What did it mean to them? Why did God do it?

In what way does this reflect God's love? Read it, charitably assuming that it's a revelation from God.

I'm assuming that you victorious Christian ambassadors are already convinced that the Bible is the word of God. So this is not really an apologetics podcast, although I don't know. Maybe if there's interest, we'll talk about that at some point. But I'm already assuming that you're a believer and you've already decided the Bible is the revealed word of God.

So when I'm reading the Bible, I'm not judging it. I'm not reading and going that sounds crazy and judging it, I am letting the Bible judge me.

The Bible judges me. The words of the Bible judge me.

Now, of course, we have the wonderful benefit of the full revelation of the New Covenant to filter everything through.

So when you're reading those Old Testament laws, some of them were basically what ceremonial and were Levitical laws and laws of sacrifices and laws of the temple. And read again, give out your book of Hebrews and read through that and you will see there is no more sacrifice for sins. Jesus died once. For all the sacrifice has been paid.

So you don't need to sacrifice animals. You don't need to have the temple system. You don't need to have the Levitical priestly system.

I'm always a little bit mystified by people that are thinking God is going to reestablish all those things in the end times because it's clearly in the book of Hebrews. It's already fulfilled. Any animal sacrifice to cover sin isn't covering anything. It's fulfilled. It's replaced. So that part of the Old Testament law is completely replaced. But there are ethical standards and basically descriptions of God's love practically worked out in society that are basically of the nature of being true for all time.

They're always going to be true. It's always going to be true. It's going to be true in a billion years that it is not loved to murder your neighbor.

It's going to be true in a billion years to love one another in practical ways.

Long after this world as we know it is gone and the new Kingdom is fully established and we're all living in eternal paradise. Some things are just still going to be true. Right?

So how should you deal with the law as a believer, as someone who has been born again, who is a new creation?

Well, here's just some practical thoughts that I think you can apply.

When you read the Old Testament. Don't be so mystified by what it says that you make it all symbolic. Those are real historical events. Those are real commands. Study them in the context and learn from those laws and those stories and everything there. Who is God and what is he like? What is important to them?

You as a spirit filled, born again believer, the law of God is life. So when it says, Thou shalt not murder, you don't think, oh, man, what a killjoy. I was just going to go out and give me a murder today.

No, your spirit is against that. You don't want to do that because of the Holy Spirit in you.

Now, if you find something in the law that challenges you Okay it doesn't seem like something that was written specifically for a culture long ago. It sounds like an eternal standard, and we can have a great talk about that later about how to figure that out. But it sounds like something that's always true, but it's challenging you.

Maybe you feel guilty or maybe you feel bad, or maybe you feel like you can't do it.

Go to Christ, go to the cross, take that and say, okay, Lord, I see something in me that isn't filled with love yet.

There's something in me.

So you don't now add that to a list of dos that you're going to somehow perform to be good enough for Jesus. It will never work. Nobody's ever been able to do it except Jesus himself, right? But instead, go to Jesus, lay it down at his feet and let him change you.

But know what the standard of love is. There are so many issues in the world today where people are saying but love, but but love, and they don't even really have a definition for what love is.

The whole Bible, Old Testament and New is a long description of God's love and what it's like and how it works. So if someone is doing something that is contrary to God's design and purpose and contrary to what He says is love and they're doing it in the name of love, you know what? That's not actually love. It might actually be hate.

I've had people say before you're holding up this moral standard, and that means you hate this certain category or whatever of people.

And I'm like actually, to not hold up God's standard would be hate.

Now I understand that I also am a sinner as well as whoever is being offended by whatever sin I'm pointing out. I understand that they're not going to be able to be reconciled to God by obedience to a list of rules. But the first step is to see the standard of God's love and realize this thing that I think is love is not love.

What I think is love is not love. What God says is love is love

And sometimes it's going to take study and hard work. And I will tell you the truth. There's going to be sometimes you're just not quite going to understand, or I'm still not quite sure why you're not supposed to eat an animal that's boiled in its mother's milk. I've heard different theories. I don't really know why I'm not that worried about it.

But there is so much that isn't that hard to understand that just show all of the case laws about resolving different disputes between different people.

Those are useful. In fact, if you live in Western civilization, your laws of your land have been affected by those standards.

So you have the Ten Commandments, and then all kinds of case law where Moses gives examples. You can read in there and get some understanding and study it. Don't just read it and take it at your first thought, the first thought that comes into your mind. Study it, and you may be able to understand. Okay. This is what love looks like. If my ox gores my neighbors Ox, I'm going to take responsibility for that.

That's kind of a silly example because most of us don't have an Ox. But there are still people in the world to do. But you can still take that principle if you're doing something that damages your neighbor's property or well being taken, it's love for you to take responsibility.

It sounds so basic because you probably already assumed some of it just being an inheritor of Western civilization. Right. But I'm just trying to show you that the Old Testament is not crazy. The Old Testament law is not crazy.

Some of it has been clearly fulfilled in Christ. All of it has been paid for by the blood of Christ, where you have crossed it and made a sin against the law of God. But it's still beautiful right just true and good today. That's what I'm trying to get you to see. And I'm trying to get you to open your mind and your heart to look a little bit more closely and not just say we're not under the law. It's like an easy cop out to not study it.

Or thinking the only relevance to the entire law is that it chases you to Christ. That is a big part of it. But it's kind of an ongoing chasing you to Christ, too.

You get chased to Christ by seeing the violation of the law in your own heart in that initial moment where you become a believer. But then it's kind of an ongoing process.

I find myself looking through the Bible, old and New Testament, and getting convicted by something all the time, right.

So I was talking a while ago about how the old or perhaps we should say original Covenant. Maybe it's not old. It's just the original Covenant that the new one is built upon, or it has been fulfilled in Christ, and a new Covenant has come that puts those laws in your heart.

So it's still true and good and beautiful, but now you have a heart that wants to obey. Is it competing with an old man flesh that doesn't want to obey? Yes.

But you are a new creation in Christ. And there's a part of you that wants to obey the law because it's what love is it's what love looks like.

And that law is not, in essence, a different law that is put in our hearts.

It's not like, well, there used to be this law, and now guys put a different law. No, it's basically the same law only now it's in our hearts, along with a supernatural motive to want to obey it.

So I don't know how many times I've heard someone try to disprove or nullify some principle that's being quoted or brought forth from the Old Testament by making a list of a whole bunch of crazy, scary sounding Old Testament laws as if somehow they have just cleverly debunked everything you said.

But frankly, that is just being lazy.

If you really want to understand those crazy laws, go study them in detail in context.

More importantly, look at all the ones that do not appear crazy and are not hard to understand. It seems like sometimes we like to obsess about the 5% of things in the Bible that are really difficult to understand while blowing past all the stuff that's plain as day.

One other thought here. Do you remember the context that the context in which Moses gave the law to Israel was just before they entered the promised Land?

That's when he gave it to them. He was sort of giving it to them for the whole 40 years. But he was giving it to them in a written form just before they entered the Promised Land.

So they have been brought out of Egypt and purified in the desert for 40 years. The old, corrupt generation has passed away. Now God has given them a new vision for a new nation. So the law in the whole Old Testament is also kind of like the very first worldview class.

When I teach Christian worldview, a lot of it comes from Genesis.

The first few chapters of Genesis are so rich with understanding of why the world is the way it is.

You learn who God is, who man is, what sin is, why evil entered the world where suffering came from and where this is all going. And you begin to see the redemptive story that ultimately led to the coming of the Messiah come out.

So God brought his law and his word into the world, and then he literally brought his word into the world through his Messiah.

So like, if you want to get the basics of worldview, you got to also study the Old Testament and then you always take it in the context of the New right? But you also always take the New Testament in the context of the old.

So I hope all of this makes you think and a little bit less afraid of the Old Testament. And I appreciate you so much for taking the time to listen to this episode if you have not already done so please take the time to subscribe to this podcast.

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Thanks again, Victorious Kingdom Ambassador, talk to you next week. Jon Davis and the Gospel of Everything Podcast signing Off

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Listen to the episode here:  https://gospelofeverything.com/podcast/how-does-the-old-testament-law-apply-today/